#LoveWins Flashback: Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners

This week marked a major historical moment in the United States as gay marriage was legalized across the country (finally)!  #lovewins took over the world on social media and a huge milestone was reached.

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Appropriately, our Toastmasters group hosted an Evening of Pride on Monday evening in partnership with Broadway Cinemas in Tillsonburg.  Four of our members gave speeches on the topic of pride followed by a screening of the TIFF film, Pride.  The film was an incredibly well done depiction of the 1980s partnership between striking miners in Dulais, Wales and the Lesbian and Gays Support the Miners activist group in London, England. It was such an inspiring film that I had to look into the real story…turns out it was actually a pretty great portrayal.

THE STORY

As Margaret Thatcher was putting a hard thumb on the miners of the United Kingdom in the 1984 and closing down mines, the National Union of Mineworkers decided to strike for a year.[1]  For thousands of people, this meant no income, possible starvation and a lack of heat in the cold winter months.  Additionally, it meant violent police discrimination on the front lines.

Flash point at Thoresby Colliery on Nottinghamshire in 1984 when what had become a fair tempered dispute between police and miners suddenly erupted into anger when 100 pickets from Yorkshire decided that it was time to show there anger when a collegue named Dave Jones Had been killed
Photo from http://libcom.org

In London England, one Mark Ashton felt a deep empathy for the miners who were facing much of the same violence and discrimination as the lesbians and gays that he identified with at home.  Three months into the strike, he collected money for the miners at a pride march and by July 1st, he had called the first meeting of the Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners group who had exactly eleven members.[2]  The group decided to collect money, bypass major activist groups and hand over their donations straight to the mineworkers of Dulais.

While many found the donation offensive at first, it was not long before the majority of miners found a major connection with the group of gay supporters.  Lucy Robinson puts it well when she says, “The miners found a political connection with the lesbian and gay activists through their common experiences.”[3]  This is one of the most truly amazing accounts of Leftist and Right Wing groups coming together under a common goal and finding true friendship in the middle. In my opinion, it just goes to show that persecution is persecution.  When you defend the rights of another, amazing things can happen!

Photos from walesonline.co.uk
Photos from walesonline.co.uk

In 1985, mine workers made the decision to go back to work.  One may think this would be the end of the story and the friendship.  After all, the struggle was all these two groups had in common.  However, three months after the return to the mines, something crazy cool (I love casual words) happened. NUM (National Union of Mineworkers) delegates came out to march at the Gay Pride Parade in London.[4]  In fact, they were in FRONT.  In the future, NUM delegates also lobbied for gay rights to the labour boards of the UK and were a huge part of the civil rights movement.[5]

So, maybe there’s somebody you know that you think you have nothing in common with.  Perhaps you think they can offer nothing but you just may find some common ground.  If you look hard enough, you just may find a friend.

P.S. DEFINITELY GO SEE THE FILM!

[1] Patrick Healy. An Unlikely Alliance at the Barricades.

[2] Lucy Robinson. Gay Men and the Left Post-War Britain: How the Personal got Political. 166.

[3] Robinson, 167.

[4] Robinson, 167.

[5] Robinson, 167.

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